A man recently released from prison after serving time for terrorism-related offenses strapped on a fake bomb and stabbed two people on a busy London street Sunday before being shot to death by police, officials said.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Lucy D’Orsi said police identified the attacker as 20-year-old Sudesh Amman. He had been convicted for publishing graphic terrorist videos online and had stockpiled instructions on bomb making and knife attacks, according to police.
Officers had been trailing Amman at the time of Sunday’s attack, D’Orsi said, but were unable to head off the bloodshed in the commercial and residential south London neighborhood of Streatham, where Amman struck outside a major pharmacy on a busy shopping afternoon.
The incident in London recalled a November stabbing attack carried out by another man who had served prison time for terrorism offense. Two were killed in that attack.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said measures will be introduced Monday to bring “fundamental” change to the way people convicted of terrorism offenses are handled in prison and afterward.
“The suspect had been recently released from prison where he had been serving a sentence for Islamist-related terrorism offences,” D’Orsi said of Sunday’s attacker.
It seems likely the victims will survive Sunday’s attack. D’Orsi said a stabbing victim in his 40s thought to be in life-threatening condition has improved. She said the victim is no longer in danger and that a woman who had been hospitalized has been released.
One other female victim is still in the hospital with lesser injuries police believe were caused by flying glass after the attacker was shot dead.
D’Orsi said the incident started at 2 p.m. “Armed officers, who were part of a proactive counterterrorism operation and were following the suspect on foot, were in immediate attendance and shot a male suspect dead at the scene,” she said.
She said police saw a device strapped to the attacker’s body and called in specialist officers who quickly determined the purported explosive device was a hoax.
Officials praised the police action but questions are likely to be raised about why the officers trailing Amman could not prevent his attack.
Video from the scene appeared to show three undercover police officers in an unmarked car making a quick stop just after the attack.
Bell Reberio-Addy, a member of Parliament who represents Streatham, said the attacker had been under surveillance “for some time.”
D’Orsi said there was no “continuing danger” to the public, but the area remained cordoned off as the investigation continued. The usually busy area was deserted as the public heeded police requests to stay away.
The drama about 8 kilometers south of central London marked a departure from recent terror attacks in the British capital that took place near landmarks such as London Bridge and the Houses of Parliament.
The attack caused chaos and panic on what had been a typical Sunday afternoon, with the streets filled wish shoppers.